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WATCH: Officer in Nabi Saleh night raid blames residents for 'show'

For the past two weeks the army has been raiding the village of Nabi Saleh almost every night. Last night’s highlights: armed soldiers surround children’s beds, and confiscate computers and school notebooks.

It’s little after 2:00 a.m. Soldiers are once again in the streets of Nabi Saleh. Ever since weekly demonstrations against the settlements started in this small village, night raids by the army have become a part of life. In the past two weeks, military action has intensified, and only few nights were soldier-free. At times they try to arrest someone, at times they’re there for a search, and sometimes just to see who is living in each house, taking residents’ pictures and IDs.

Bilal Tamimi, a local photographer, recorded last night’s raid with his video camera. It shows the soldiers on the street, trying to prevent him from filming and eventually giving up. After a short while the soldiers enter the home of Naji Tamimi Bassem Tamimi, a prominent activist who has been in prison for almost a year, and who is facing charges of incitement, based on loose evidence achieved from the village youth in questionable interrogations. Tamimi has been recognized by the EU as a human rights defender, and his trial sessions are attended by diplomats from many countries. Inside the house we see two women, one of them also filming the soldiers. From this point on they keep asking the soldiers to explain themselves, but an officer is heard repeatedly ordering his troops, “Don’t answer them.” The prevailing 45-year-old military regime in the West Bank does not require soldiers to obtain a search warrant in order to invade a house or confiscate people’s belongings.

The soldiers then enter a bedroom, where two young children are seen asleep in a single bed. The armed soldiers, some of them masked, spend some three minutes in the room, opening drawers and closets and confiscating papers and notebooks, as one of the children views them with fear from under the blanket. After visiting another child’s room, the soldiers leave, shoving aside the owner of the house who is shouting at them that they are thieves, and that they don’t scare her.

(Video translation: Institue for Middle East Understanding)

The video does not show a second search the soldiers carried out in the house of Bassem Tamimi Naji Tamimi, another activist who was recently released from jail after having been arrested for organizing demonstrations. By the end of the two searches in both houses, four computers have been confiscated, as well as a camera, several CDs, a gas mask, birth certificates, personal papers and children’s notebooks.

Soldiers in a children's bedroom in Nabi Saleh (from a video by Bilal Tamimi)

Soldiers in a children's bedroom in Nabi Saleh (from a video by Bilal Tamimi)

Shortly before the end of video, when all the children of the house have already been awoken and have gathered in the living room, an officer is heard saying to his troops, “Guys, they’re doing this on purpose for the video.” This is an amazing sentence worth considering, especially as I’ve heard it said by officers in many similar situations.

I think it is safe to say that the speaker felt obligated to say it, as he did not feel completely at ease with what was taking place: standing there, a group of armed men, some of them masked, in a living room with children and women, in the dead of night, taking away computers and notebooks. In a way, he must have been trying to escape this feeling by saying, “Hey guys, you know, it’s just a game really, a play the Arabs are putting on so they can tell the world how horrible we are.”

But does he believe himself? Do his soldiers? Is it possible that any of them actually believes that the Palestinians are somehow responsible for setting up this horrific scene in which they, the soldiers, invaded the house and woke the children up? The answer is that they probably do believe so. They believe because the alternative would be to recognize that they’re doing something wrong, and nobody wants to do that. Perhaps one day, in the future, looking back at it all, they’ll begin to ask questions about their military service. And perhaps not. Slim are the chances that they will ever realize that it was they themselves who were part of a scheme that was only meant for a show – a show of force meant to deter the village from continuing its struggle.

Read also:

Soldiers raiding Palestinian homes: ‘We want peace’

14 year old child arrested in night raid in Nabi Saleh

Israeli army represses dissent with 3am child arrests (Part 1)

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    1. An

      Good article, but there is a mistake; most of the scenes that you see happens in the house of Bassem Tamimi. There is no coverage of the soldiers entering the house of Naji Tamimi.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Steve

      I have no idea what’s going on here, or why they are videotaping this, or why they actually shared it and made it public, or what the background of the house is or if terrorist organization members own the house, etc.

      Reply to Comment
    3. directrob

      Steve, by the looks of it the IDF ran out of computers and sent some robots to steal some more just to make a family and a few children feel miserably.
      Lets start an 972mag action to give them a new one.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Haggai Matar

      AN – thanks, I stand corrected.

      Steve – what is it that you’re looking for, actually? The army goes in homes of people who are active in a local popular struggle, not terrorists or anything like that (unless you define the demonstrations acts of terror, of course). The people’s only weapon of defence is their cameras. That’s why they’re filming and uploading, and as you can see in the video – nothing is taken from these homes but computers and notebooks etc. No weapons of mass destruction found.

      Reply to Comment
    5. The restraint and commitment to non-violence on behalf of the people of Nabi Saleh and other villages afflicted by the thuggery of a crumbling occupation is astonishing. The fact that no Muhammad Hatib, Bassem Tamimi or Abdallah Abu Rahme are even considered for a Nobel Peace Prize proves what a sham that award generally is (I do love Ellen Sirleaf Johnson though).

      There is no doubt in my mind that had I myself been a 20 year-old whose family, extended family, neighbors and friends were subjected to this offhanded, high-handed, bully-handed treatment every week for months I would have LONG since resorted to violence as a legitimate means of resistance against tyranny.

      Not that it would be difficult either. Despite the “restrained” and “professional” demeanor of the chief thug in the video, I know from personal experience that the conduct of the vaunted IDF in these villages is haphazard, reckless, and entirely predicated on the certainty of there being no serious, organized, armed resistance. Rock throwing, but nothing focused or seriously equipped.

      This army does not represent me. I think the mothers that raised 18-20 year olds who do this and worse without thinking twice should be ashamed of themselves.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Philos

      @ Haggai Matar, I take strong issue with your claim that most of the soldiers won’t, with time, realize the wrongs of their service in the territories. The phenomenon of “Breaking the Silence” and the Army’s numerous attempts to crush this group (anyone remember orders stating that serving soldiers who testify will be prosecuted???) is testament to the fact that Israelis are not zombies. If anything the army drives us to schizophrenia; on the one hand we’re horrified by the occupation and on the other feel compelled to “serve” and “live up to our obligations” to society.
      The thing is many people won’t go to “Breaking the Silence” and many others will carry the psychological scars of being occupiers with them. And, sadly, quite a few sadists and psychos will relish going back into the West Bank to do these things; and, their evil spreads into their own lives and the lives of people around them. A sadist or psychos will, overtime, not get his thrills once a year for two-weeks; eventually his kids, or parents, or partner, or some innocent stranger must pay for his relish of violence.
      That’s the corrupting, vile, filthy nature of occupation. Violence, sadism and indifference everywhere.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Philos

      I think it was Gideon Levy or Amira Hass or Akiva Eldar who said that the Palestinian’s can’t be held responsible for incitement because everyday of their lives is incitement against Israel

      Reply to Comment
    8. Haggai Matar

      Philos – of course I’m not saying Israelis are zombies. However, I look around society and I don’t see a majority of people who repent what they did in the army. Sure, several hundreds might find themselves giving testimony to Breaking the Silence, and that’s great, but I still feel it’s nothing compared with the many tens of thousands who serve in the OTs and then go on to live their normal lives.

      Reply to Comment
    9. The scene is not horrific to the soldiers. It is banal. And, I suspect, a waste of time, in their view, just what their duty hours snaged.
      Yet how can I not expect hatred to grow as these bored soldiers do their duty? Any act of independence is suspect of terror. And terror itself become redefined as any act of indpendence. Terror is charged against existence itself. That’s where the first battle is: to deny that completely.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Philos

      Haggai, I assure you that people carry this damage and their lives are anything but normal. The rage, the verbal and physical violence, the drug and alcohol abuse, the sexual abuse, the increasing viciousness coupled with widespread apathy of our society; all these things, in my opinion, come from spending three-years of our youth abusing and being abused in the army.
      The most well-adjusted members of our society served in the Kirya or somewhere else like that where the psychological abuse of the army is less widespread. Hell, most people aren’t even aware they’re being abused…
      The deep cynicism that is a feature of secular Israeli culture I think comes from the shattering experience of army service combined with the lying bastards in the Knesset. Who wouldn’t want to go to Thailand, get fucked up, return and pretend he/she is normal? Even though the rapidity with which people become rageful here seems like, to me, the entire society has PTSD…

      Reply to Comment
    11. Philos

      Sorry about the curse words. They just came out…

      Reply to Comment
    12. I agree with Philos here. A conversation that I had with a soldier in Hebron about six months ago stands out very clearly in my mind. I asked if he ever discussed his daily life in the army with his family. “No, I wouldn’t want to worry them.” I asked what he meant by that – was he referring to personal dangers he underwent? The reply: “Don’t be stupid. You know what I mean.” There is a gulf between how army service is presented to the future soldiers while they’re still at school – it’s for the sake of the country, it’s a big adventure, let’s compete to see who can get the highest profile – and the reality of service. You’ve got people of eighteen, nineteen, twenty who are enduring that reality while propping up its image at home. Sometimes it looks as though they’re doing the splits between two different worlds. They aren’t always equipped to deal with that in a responsible way, and so you get them trying to separate themselves from the things they see in whatever way they can.
      “My unit’s OK. You hear a horror story, it’ll involve Golani or Givati, they’re full of arsim.” (The soldier saying this to me was under orders to deny passage to every Palestinian who came down the street, permit or no permit.)
      “It’s an order”, “I don’t have any choice”, “What do you want me to do? What do you want me to do?” (said with defensive helplessness), “It doesn’t matter what I think,” and, “My opinion doesn’t matter.” The belief that you have no agency any more is not only a justification of immoral behaviour, it’s a way of separating yourself from such behaviour – as is deciding that bad things are the preserve of Golani/Givati/Magav/anybody but you. As is, “Guys, they’re doing this on purpose for the video.” After the army, you can separate yourself from all this physically by heading to Goa (and finding cheap LSD). When you’re still in the army, it isn’t so easy. This does affect people long-term. Sometimes I think back to the guy who told us, “My opinion doesn’t matter,” and the way he abruptly walked off when my friend Rousol said to him with concern, “Of course your opinion matters. How can you even say that?” This is how he sees himself now. I doubt a post-army excursion to India or Latin America or one of the other standard migrating-grounds is going to teach him differently.

      Reply to Comment